Story 1: Getting Closer
I was caught in the rain twice this week, on my brand new Spooky. Mr. Spooky, he's anodized, though, so he just brushes the dirt off, like no big deal. Yesterday I rode home in a solid inch of water on the roads, it was pretty cool for 5 minutes. I went across the river to Rensselaer County trying to beat the rain, and just for a change of pace. The view out there is pretty cool when you get down a little to the South--the Catskills to the West and the Berkshires to the East. Looking back toward Albany, I saw Bugs Bunny's rain cloud, you know the little one that followed him around? Sad sack city I live in has its cloud, and yesterday it was of the black/purple Mid-Western variety.
Plus today's forecast called for snow showers. So bike racing? Seemed an iffy prospect.
So today, Saturday, was the second race of the Johnny Cake Lane Spring series in Coxsackie, NY. Several things are cool about this, not the least of which is the fact that, once upon a time, the legendary Frank The Welder used to manufacture Spookies in a machine shop about 100 yards off of the race course. Also cool was the fact that several regional strongmen were registered including Justin Lindine, Roger Aspholm, and a contingent of Quebecois including Maxime Vives of the pro Planet Energy team. Even cooler, though in a more literal sense, was the wind, the drizzle, and the threat of snow flurries that, thankfully, never materialized.
The field was smaller this week than last, owing no doubt to the weather and the fact that the New England season opens officially tomorrow at Maaahblehead. But a field of only 40 guys with winds gusting to 30 mph promised a hard race with much time spent fighting to stay out of the gutter. Sure enough, just out of the first turn a small group jumped clear including Andrew Bernstein from BVF, and old school hardman and legend of New York and New England bike racing, Andy Ruiz, now racing for Keltic. Once the field turned on to Johnny Cake lane and started heading South with the strong Westerly tail/cross wind, this split rolled back, and almost immediately Vives and a couple of others jumped, I covered and the move of the day was gone, 2 miles into the race. Ruiz came back across almost immediately, and about 5k later Troy Kimball of Westwood Velo capitalized on his teammate, Aspholm, being heavily marked and bridged across solo, an impressive effort. All in all we were 7 including the aforementioned(s), one Bluberi/Specialized rider, Ron Larose from CCNS, and a Pro Pedals rider whose name I didn't catch.
There isn't much to tell about the break--first a 1 minute gap, then 2, then 3, then 4, and about 5 minutes back to the field by the finish. We rolled a near-perfect echelon for 52 miles and there were no attacks until Vives jumped at 2k out, followed by Larose, then Vives again, we all laughed at each other a little, good-naturedly, came back together for the sprint, and rounded the final turn more or less as a group, with me in 3rd wheel.
Now a word about this sprint: it is a long, long way from the corner to the line. 350 meters, I believe, and once we left the shelter of the trees and got the full force of the wind in our faces, it looked like about a mile. Vives and Larose jumped too early, I waited for them to fade and dove hard for the right hand gutter at 200 meters out, the W was there. Alas, I was overgeared--sat down--spun up--jumped again, 1, 2, 3 riders come back and I'm gonna be 4th and that's it. Larose won, Kimball 2nd, Vives 3rd, a wheel or so in front of me. Headwind sprints, man...
The good news, for me, is that I have been piling on the hours, by my standards in preparation for the Big Boys' Battenkill race, and I had put in a hard 105 mile day with many climbs on Thursday, and a steady 2 hours of light tempo yesterday. No this isn't usually the recipe for great race legs on Saturday, so I was happy to get in the break and just be able to stay there. Contesting the win was icing on the cake and while missing out on the W was disappointing, there are bigger fish to fry, coming up shortly.
Story 2: The Thing About Luck
Sometimes you get to watch a friend have a very bad day. Sometimes my friends look at me, and my can't-find-my-whatever shenanigans, and my messy race bag, and my always lateness, and my cluttered apartment and they look at me like, "boy, get it together." Once in awhile, though, like today, the stars align and I get to the race on time, don't knock anything over, I eat enough, I don't flat, I don't crash, I race ok, and seem generally like a more-or-less functional grown-up.
My friend and teammate Matt Purdy wasn't going to race today. "Not worth it" he said. Too early in the season to waste mental energy racing in bad weather, was his argument. But this morning, when the weather looked better than it might have, and the wind was high enough to have dried out the roads--which looks appealing from the indoors side of a window--he decided to follow through on our preferred plan of riding down to the race from Albany, racing, and riding home. For him that makes for a solid 120+ mile day and some good work. Me, I bailed a bit, claiming the excuse that my car was committed to the race as a wheel vehicle to be driven by my dad. So my plan was to drive down, and do a mellower 30 minute warm-up followed by an hourish long cooldown post-race. I was right.
Matt was rained on. He was bivouacked under a bridge. He flatted a brand spanking new race tire and had to ride hard tempo for 30 miles in order to get to the race on time. Then, because he was half not paying attention, and half trying to be good and follow the rules, meaning not ride in the left-hand gutter of the road, crosswind be damned, like the officials had instructed us, he got gapped off the group early, and time trialled around for 50 miles, picking up stragglers one by one and recruiting them into his merry band of wind riders.
Plus someone knocked over his Spooky. Right before the race. It bumped his front brake. The front brake was rubbing, while he was riding around wondering why the hell he didn't stay home and work on his house today. I'm pretty sure a band of renegade ninjas ambushed him and tried to steal his water bottles, too, but he got away from that one. I hope he forgets this all soon so he'll keep racing.
The thing about Matt, though, is that he'll do 6 hours tomorrow. And I promise you, his 6 hour ride can beat up your 6 hour ride. My boy is built for naked, foodless, ultra glacier marathons, or some such sport. Look for him off the front of a hilly race near you, some time soon.
It's worth remembering when you're having an exceptionally smooth, or an exceptionally maddening day, that there is often little in either case you can take credit for. My dad likes to say "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."
5 weeks ago